All I need to be entertained are cats within ear-scratching distance and a good book . . .OK, maybe that's not ALL I need, but it's a good start.

I love to read. And I love to get recommendations for books to read.

I started Cats and a Book to share the books I read with others. Some I love, some I don't, but you may love the ones I don't, so you're welcome to post your own comments and suggestions.

To make it easier to purchase books you may read about on the blog, I've linked to through The Cats and a Book Bookstore, which is located on the bottom of this page. Your purchases are fulfilled and handled through Amazon. To assure your privacy, Cats and a Book doesn't handle any of your payment or contact information.

Happy reading!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Boy Who Stole the Leopard's Spots, by Tamar Myers

The Boy Who Stole the Leopard’s Spots, by Tamar Myers, is the story of twin sons of a native chief whose lives take divergent paths but are eventually reunited in the Belgian Congo.  The children’s births are documented, along with their participation in a cannibalism ritual and their separation when one of them is abducted, in short chapters from events in 1935.  These shorter chapters are interspersed with longer chapters from 1958, which is the year in which the main story of the book is told. 

In the Belgian Congo in 1958, lives of the native tribes, the Belgian citizens, and other white immigrants are separate although dependent on each other.  Conflict arises between tribes and between religions—Protestants and Catholics—and between natives and their government, the white Belgians or other immigrants.  Mayers, who spent the first 16 years of her life in the Belgian Congo, draws on her experiences there to weave into the story expressions, language, beliefs, and perceptions which gives The Boy authenticity. 

Myers’ characters are memorable although often damaged, impacted by their position in society.  Amanda is a Protestant missionary who serves as the host for the missionary house there.  A drunk driving incident drew her to service and a reformed life, although she struggles under the influence of Madame Cabochon, who is herself impacted by drunkenness—that of her often errant husband.  In addition to the Chief’s twins, Lazarus Chigger Mite and Joseph Pimple, Cripple is a native Baluba and is also a key character in the book.  Named "Cripple" because of her shape and stature, she is respected as a wise woman by all, and her counsel helps maintain the tenuous balance between populations. 

The Boy Who Stole the Leopard’s Spots is a multilayered novel about oppression and acceptance.  The oppression comes from many directions—whether it is government, religion, or place in society.  In some cases, the oppression is a painful memory which cannot be erased.  The successful ones are those who are able to accept, adapt, and learn.  The Boy Who Stole the Leopard’s Spots was published by William Morrow in 2012.  

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Sacre Bleu, by Christopher Moore

Sacre Bleu:  A Comedy D'Art is a bawdy romp through Impressionist art history that begins with the murder of Vincent Van Gogh.  In case you’re wondering, history will tell you that Van Gogh committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest, and in the afterword Moore titled “So, Now You’ve Ruined Art," the author asks, “What kind of painter does that?  Who tries to kill himself by shooting himself in the chest, then walks a mile to seek medical treatment?”  The author concludes with, “What kind of muse inspires that?” and the novel Sacre Bleu is born. 

The primary characters are a crooked little man called The Colorman, the muse Sacre Bleu (or simply Bleu), and a baker’s son and would-be artist, Lucien Lessard.  Lessard’s father was fascinated by the community of artists and often supported them with his bread.  Their frequent visits to the bakery  fueled Lucien’s passion for becoming a painter.  Moore is a name-dropper, including artists from the art community like Camille Pissarro, Paul Gauguin, Edouard Manet, Georges Seurat, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, and Claude Monet among others, making them characters in his story.  Famous works of art are also reproduced throughout the book. 

But Sacre Bleu is not an intellectual study of art history but a dark comedy.  Bleu and The Colorman are coarse and merciless, using their ultramarine blue paint with its odd magical properties as a way to seduce painters and steal their paintings.  Bleu inspires masterpieces as she inhabits the bodies of models.  More than one of the painters in the book die, some from syphilis, although not all deaths are as successful as others.  Bleu and The Colorman appear to have eternal qualities, not to mention Bleu’s ability to produce the ultramarine blue color that is like no other. 

Sacre Bleu is a unique story.  Moore gives the muse embodiment and motive.  After all, would a “good” muse inspire Van Gogh’s suicide?  At the very least, Sacre Bleu will encourage readers to bone up on their art history and enjoy the works of art reproduced in the book.  

Sacre Bleu was published in 2012 by William Morrow.